On Thursday night, U.Va. Students United a group of about 20 students in attempt to shut down a party at the Delta Psi fraternity, also known as “The Hall.” The group of students took issue with the “cops and robbers” theme, specifically the orange jumpsuits and teardrop tattoos worn by some of the attendees. In a Facebook , U.Va. Students United charged that the party theme and costumes “make a joke of mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex, systems that disproportionately brutalize people of color.” While the demonstrators may have had their hearts in the right place, this kind of triviality distracts from the real social issues that they are purportedly more inclined to address.
By wasting their time on such inconsequential minutia, U.Va. Students United detracts from what to this point had been significant steps toward actual progress in the wake of the violence and terror of the white supremacist rallies. To go from such powerful demonstrations as the “” and the to breaking up an unimportant fraternity party squanders the momentum they have worked so hard to generate in the last month. Frankly, it’s embarrassing that of all of the possible ways to effect positive change, the student protesters landed on breaking up a private date function because half the attendees were wearing orange jumpsuits.
In the future, U.Va. Students United should focus their resources on actually effecting change rather than having a conniption over a party theme obliviously chosen by fraternity brothers. Even if this event did merit a coordinated response, there are more effective ways to point out the alleged insensitivity towards the plight of incarcerated minorities. It’s safe to say that this demonstration had no significant impact on Delta Psi’s perspective on the issue of mass incarceration in the United States. If anything, the net impact of the evening was polarizing the perspectives of partygoers in the wrong direction, and undermining the efficacy of U.Va. Students United to lead the charge towards social justice on Grounds.
This entire situation could have been handled better. The hostilities stemmed in no small part from a failure to consider the other as a complex, three-dimensional individual, rather than a caricature. U.Va. Students United should focus on engaging in constructive discourse and changing people’s minds with effective arguments, rather than overreacting towards something as irrelevant as a relatively innocuous party theme. Going forward, we should strive to act like a community and treat each other as three-dimensional people, rather than talking points for exploitation.